Matson on Music
Seattle chillwave duo USF releases "Jamaica Plain" EP, plays concert
Posted by Andrew Matson
USF, L - R: Kyle Hargus and Jason Baxter; photo by Yuen Lui, used courtesy USF
"Point Break II" by USF
Left foot twitching high above your yoga mat. Black out for a just a few earth-seconds. When you wake up, the serene feeling stays.
That's sort of what it's like listening to the instrumental electronic music of Seattle duo USF, formerly known as Universal Studios Florida, and also known as recently graduated UW Huskies Kyle Hargus and Jason Baxter.
The pair has a four-song EP out next week called "Jamaica Plain," available online as a download or pressed to vinyl by local indie label Highfives and Handshakes, and a concert this Saturday at the bedroom-sized art space Cairo, on Capitol Hill.
Like all USF's music, "Jamaica Plain" is upbeat, tribal and dreamlike. The songs are surround-sound digital audio collages that flit between electronic genres and indulge the occasional pop-melodic synthesizer flourish.
The ten-minute title track is a jam from Hargus' parents' cabin near Mount Baker, where Hargus and Baxter went without cell phone reception or Internet connectivity. Just two guys in the woods with computers, samplers, a digital drum set and a guitar. The song builds from pastel whooshes to a nightclub pulse, a long journey.
"Branss" features a communal vocal "hummmm" that sounds like it came from "The Lion King." In fact, it's a slowed down version of a vocal recording Hargus made on a family trip to Lake Chelan. The song also features a sped-up micro-sample of Hargus singing, then combining his voice with another sample he downloaded on his computer of soul snippets. Together, the sounds make a tiny human exclamation, and USF uses it to punctuate a rolling, island-style rhythm.
"Point Break II" is the single, a sliding, guitar-based track that's already made the rounds on hip-person's blogs locally and nationally — Pitchfork.com is a supporter. "Greywolf" caps the EP with twinkling sci-fi music that gives way to a machinated wheeze, and features the ramblings of a man. Tough to tell what he's saying with all the layers happening, but it's something about wolves. Neither Hargus nor Baxter remembers which online public radio show they stole it from.
The EP partially serves to tide over USF fans between albums. Debut "Ocean Sunbirds" came out in 2009, and follow-up "The Spray" is finished, waiting and ready for release on some enterprising label — or independently, USF hasn't decided.
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